The anti-war objections of Ernest Bosh

Over the last two weeks we have been taking a closer look at what Manistee was like during World War I.

Manistee High School (or Central School, later Woodrow Wilson School) was formerly located on the southwest corner of First and Oak Street and was where Ernest Bosh taught physics and chemistry.

Manistee High School (or Central School, later Woodrow Wilson School) was formerly located on the southwest corner of First and Oak Street and was where Ernest Bosh taught physics and chemistry.

As is the case with countless situations throughout history, the effects of The Great War on the homefront are something that has been glossed over during the past century. These past few columns have mainly dealt with the anti-German sentiment that was a result of the United States fighting Germany during the war, and with Manistee a melting pot of various ethnic groups, people of German heritage made up a decent size of the population turning many pioneer families into potential enemies in the eyes of the community.

Take all of this and add the mandated conservation of sugar, flour, coal, electricity as well as a staunch patriotism, meaning that if you didn’t agree with the war you could also be ostracized, and you have the makings of a tumultuous and volatile time in history.

As she does every week, the museum’s intrepid volunteer, Teena Kracht analyzes each and every newspaper of 100 Years Ago and compiles the fascinating newspaper articles from the time period to include in her weekly column called (you guessed it!) “100 Years Ago”. From those newspapers she has researched the details of what life was like in Manistee during The Great War and brought to our attention the various stories from years long ago, including this week’s article. With that said make sure to read the entirety of Teena’s column at: www.manisteenews.com.

This week we are taking a look at high school teacher Ernest Bosh, a German born citizen who moved to Manistee to teach physics and chemistry and who just so happened to be against the war. Upon expressing his “unpatriotic” views, he was suspended and then fired from his position. The beginning of his story was first published in the Manistee News Advocate on Jan. 21, 1918

“Instructor Bosch at the closing session of the county teachers’ institute last Friday expressed some views which impressed most of his hearers as highly unpatriotic, if not decidedly pro-German, and which provoked deep resentment. These have been variously interpreted, some saying that Bosch refused to salute the flag and attempted to justify his action by explaining that while he does not approve of the Kaiser of Germany’s war policy he is a pacifist and disapproves equally of America’s entrance in the war arena.

Others have it that he sharply criticized the administration, and deprecated the Liberty Loan and other patriotic movements. All are agreed that his professions of patriotism were decidedly lukewarm, and suggested greater sympathy with the enemy than with America.

“Supt. Baker, in suspending Bosch, stated that the suspension is pending an investigation regarding his attitude toward the United States participation in the war.

“Bosh came here two years ago this winter from Cleveland. He is a graduate of Columbia University, and was rated an exceptionally efficient teacher. He is a native of Germany, and is said to be a naturalized citizen. On the war issue he has been a professed pacifist and non-believer in all wars.

“The school board last night, in considering his case, expressed the view that all teachers in the public school should be positive in their Americanism.

“The facts in the case have been laid before federal authorities here, who are investigating, and it is possible that some action may follow which will involve Bosch in seditious or treasonable acts.

The next day, Bosh asked the News Advocate if he could publish a rebuttal of the events that took place at the meeting as well as provide readers with a better understanding of his views:

“’The fair-minded people of the community will probably welcome a statement of his own case by Ernest Bosch, teacher of physics and chemistry. They can then compare his account with hearsay, or any other source of information, and in the case of a difference go to responsible people and ask for information.

“’At the teachers’ institute, I consider myself to have been publicly asked:

“1—If I considered myself a patriot who loves this country and seeks to advance her best interests.

“’2—If I consider myself an enthusiastic adherent of the war.

“’The response in each case was to be in the form of a salute to the flag. These questions were asked of all those present who, like the conductor of the institute, had German blood in their veins. With about 20 others, I saluted the flag in each case…and afterwards stated in substance that I was not sufficiently convinced this war is in the best interests of this country to be an enthusiastic adherent of it.

“Far from criticizing the government, I made this statement in the mildest form I could think of on the spur of the moment, so that instead of provoking resentment, the conductor was kind enough to call for three cheers in my behalf which seemed to be given with a will. I refrained from defending my view in any lest I be considered as trying to convert others to my view. Also my statement was made only because, even at the cost of my position, I felt in honor bound to disclose my position when this was publicly called for. I should have done this before, had any responsible person or persons asked me. I did not consider it necessary to state my position unasked.

“’If the community can generously tolerate a difference of opinion on my part, which is unobtrusive, seeks no converts, and attempts no defense; if it believes me when I say that I am teaching the important subjects of physics and chemistry in the spirit of service and rejoice to see my boys and girls develop in reasoning power, sincerity and grasp of the subject, I shall be happy to continue to serve her as zealous as hitherto—and more so. [Signed] ERNEST BOSCH.”

The school board agreed to have Bosh continue to teach until federal authorities had made a proper investigation however, because he was not fully reinstated as a member of the faculty, Bosh sent in his resignation and stated that he, “…could no longer be of that service to the community which would make his work as a teacher a pleasure as well as worth doing.’

A few days later, Bosh left on an afternoon train for Cleveland to stay with his brother. Records show that he continued to teach in Ohio at a private school.

Upon his departure, it was published on Jan. 26, 1918 in the Manistee News Advocate:

“No word having been received from Grand Rapids as to the arrest of Ernest Bosch, it is assumed that he was permitted to proceed unmolested on his way to Cleveland.

“While his departure Thursday afternoon was not known to the United States Commissioner in Manistee, Bosch’s friends say he endeavored to see that individual but he was busy at court, and that he left word to inform him of his intended departure on the 4:05 afternoon train; that he went to the train early so that if seen by citizens they could ask him for explanations if desired. This is the same train taken by Supt. S. W. Baker of the public schools, to whom Bosch had presented his resignation as the result of the feeling engendered by the war views expressed by Bosch last week.

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Posted by Mark Fedder

Mark Fedder is the executive director of the Manistee County Historical Musuem. He can be reached at (231) 723-5531 ormanisteemuseum@yahoo.com.

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